Probably the most well known of all the laying birds.

These are the typical brown layers which inhabit battery farms and are often seen in farmyards, commercially bred for increased egg production utilising as little feed and space as possible. Hybrids bred for free-range are typically more robust and hardier than those bred for cage production. Hybrids are the best option

if you’re new to chickens as they’ve been bred with a number of characteristics that are ideal for those just starting out in this hobby:

Birds are robust and able to stand the rigours of the UK climate. Healthy birds are sold fully vaccinated. Bred to be docile and easily handled, they have a calm temperament. Excellent egg-laying ability, usually in excess of 280 in the first full productive year. Rarely go broody. Cost effective, as they’re relatively cheap to buy. You only buy hens as the chicks are sexed at hatching. Birds are usually upright and sturdy, and come in all sorts of colours although speckled, brown, and white are the most popular.

Bred by crossing monitored and assessed pure breeds with an excellent egg production record, recognised hybrids can only be bred under licence and sold on through approved agencies or stockists, which ensures that the commercial suppliers work hard to promote their good name and stock, much in the same way as breeders of exhibition stock do. By buying from a hatchery you’re guaranteed a healthy bird that will produce a large number of fresh eggs during its productive lifespan, as the breeders have invested a lot of time and money in producing their birds and buying the franchise, which is something you can’t guarantee if you buy from an unknown supplier.

Unfortunately a number of the large UK hatcheries are rather poor on customer service, so if you prefer more personal attention a better option – if you want their particular line of hybrids – is to buy from a local agent, who you’ll find advertised on websites and in the local press. These agents are very helpful and you can often visit their premises to look at the birds. Farmers markets are also a good place to get birds, especially if you can meet the breeders and get some background information on laying ability. Buying from the roadside is not recommended.

Image(s) provided by: